What you need to know about ticks in the Netherlands
The number of ticks in the Netherlands has increased in April, meaning that people who go out on trips to the dunes, forests, woods or other green areas, must be extra careful to avoid getting bitten.
Every year, 1,3 million people are bitten by ticks. Many are also unaware of the dire health issues that can result from a bite.
Symptoms of infection
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called B. burgdorferi spirochete that gets transmitted from the tick into the blood of humans. Symptoms in early stages often include unrelenting fatigue, recurring fever, headaches and migraines and achy muscles and joints. In many cases, it starts with a red ring or patch on the skin, but this is not always present.
In more severe cases, the illness can completely immobilise a person, causing severe pain, muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination, and even intermittent paralysis, meningitis, and heart problems.
It is worth noting that tick bites can also cause other diseases, but the most common one is Lyme.
Lyme disease statistics
Of the 1,3 million people that are bitten each year, 25.000 people get Lyme disease. Whilst mild forms of the disease can be treated or at least managed with antibiotics, about 1.000 to 2.500 people’s symptoms continue after treatment.
Research is currently being conducted by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment to find out why this is. The first results of the survey, which monitors Lyme disease patients for a whole year, will be announced in 2019.
How to avoid getting bitten
NU.nl spoke to two experts on tick bites and how to avoid getting one.
"A tick should be removed as soon as possible", says Kees van den Wijngaard, an epidemiologist at the Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (National Institute for Public Health and Environment).
For more maps that show the distribution of tick species around Europe, visit the European Centre for Disease and Control.
According to Tim Hogenbosch ranger in the Utrecht region, it is important to dress well in preventing tick bites. Ticks can drop from trees but are usually found in low grassland areas, for example, in dunes and forests.
"Put your socks on over your pants. It is also a good idea to wear tick-resistant clothing and stay on main paths. It is especially wise to check yourself well, and have others check over parts of your body that you can't see."
DEET is also available at the pharmacies and may help in keeping ticks at bay.
How to remove a tick
If you get bitten by a tick, it is wise to remove it immediately. There are several tools, but Van Den Wijngaard suggests using pointed tweezers.
"Place the tweezers close to the skin and pull the tick straight out. Disinfect the wound afterwards with alcohol."
Many people think that you have 24 hours to remove a tick, but it's important to remove it as soon as possible. If you have a pet, then it’s best to buy a pipette to kill the ticks on the skin.